Hiking in Hawaii with locals does not mean put your hiking boots on, lets walk up a mountain and eat trail mix along the way. It means put your bathing suit on lets walk barefoot over lava rocks, jump off cliffs, and eventually end up at a waterfall. On Friday, I found myself driving up to Waipio Valley at 5 am in the back of a pick up truck with my new crew I’ve been hanging with on the island. My roommate Alis and her boyfriend Jeremy, Kai, Jeremy’s co-worker who is a dive captain, his girlfriend Ali, a Playboy model who moved to the island after meeting Kai on a manta ray snorkel, Jeremy’s brother Sean and Jeremy’s roommate Ian. All of whom live on the island and who somehow all don’t have work on Friday. I didn’t either- it was aloha Friday, somehow locals have figured out how to make work what they fit in when they’re not busy enjoying themselves.
Driving in the back of a truck is quickly becoming my favorite way of being transported, and probably the reason I will never return to the mainland where it is illegal. Every ride turns into a theme park ride, the truck winding up twisty roads, you crammed in the truck bed with a bunch of other people, sitting on the edge, gripping the sides of the truck so you don’t fly off. If there’s not too many people in the truckbed, you can all lie down next to one another and sunbathe while taking a nap. If it gets too windy, you can tie a shirt around your head and use your sunglasses as goggles, resulting in not only protection from the elements, but the added bonus of also looking like a rapist traveling in the back of a stranger’s truck.
When we finally made it to the valley, everyone’s clothes came off. “All you need is your slippahs,” they told me. I looked down at my hiking boots and socks and back up at everyone. In Hollywood, to rebel I used to wear my hiking boots everywhere, walking around town like I was straight out of Into The Wild, everyone’s trendy styled boots or heels asking who is that lesbian as I walked by. In the jungle, my new crew looked at my hiking boots, their calloused rough feet asking can mainland girl hang in da jungle? Wearing nothing but my slippahs, I began what would turn out to be the most terrifying four hours of my life. There was no set trail, so to find your way you just “follow the rivah.” I was walking behind Sean, who is in the military and whose calves were the size of Ali’s fake boobs. Sean was barefoot and as he jumped from jagged rock to jagged rock, I wondered how long it would take before I didn’t have to “follow the rivah,” but instead “follow the trail of blood.”
As you climb up the valley, you end up using every single muscle you possess in your body. Grabbing onto bamboo to pull yourself up onto a rock, jumping across an open passageway to get to another rock without falling down into the abyss, balancing across a fallen tree trunk over the river, and jumping off a cliff into the river to cross it. Luckily Sean never strayed far from me, and for most of the hike, pulled me up rocks using one arm. “You’re incredibly strong,” I said as I flew through the air, upwards, landing gently onto the jungle floor. “Please don’t leave me.” Behind me was Ali, who was engaging in conversation with me, but not the kind you have over coffee with a new friend, the kind you have with a stranger who is assessing your potential as a good new hire. “How old are you? Where did you grow up? How long have you been here? How tall are you? Are you a model? Why not? Will you be here long?” As I was being dragged up rocks by Sean, I tried to answer all her questions, “I’m 5′ 10′” I said hanging in the air, gripping Sean’s hand. “I’m here because I’m working to live in a trailer,” as I hugged a tree trunk suspended over the rocks and water, trying to make my way to the other side. “I don’t know how long I’ll be here, it depends if I die after this,” I told her, teetering on the edge of a cliff.
“I think she is a tad threatened by you,” Sean whispered. Hollywood always seems to follow me. On the plane ride over, I sat next to a man who I was very used to seeing walking past my apartment window- bearded, wearing all black, trendy combat boots, and black nail polish. We were the only two people on the plane that were riding alone and not part of a vacationing family or a just recently married couple on their honeymoon. How? I thought and now in the jungle, a Playboy bunny hot on my trail, I asked myself again, how?Jeremy, like his brother, was hopping along the rocks barefoot like a monkey. I watched as he ziplined down a dusty path using tree branches, and I tumbled down after him, sliding down the dirt on my ass and landing in a pile of wild guavas that had fallen off the tree.
The most terrifying part was when we got to a bunch of rocks spaced out just far enough that you had to jump from one to the other. If you missed you would fall in between the rocks all the way down to more rocks underneath you. I wasn’t sure what I was more terrified of, losing my balance and cracking my head open on rocks, or of the Playboy bunny. “Why didn’t you model in Hollywood? I don’t understand,” she kept pressing from behind me, pressuring me to climb faster. I was beginning to contemplate asking Sean if his military training meant he could carry me on his back across the rocks and through the jungle, so we could go faster and escape her questions, when we got to a huge boulder that we needed to jump off and into the river to cross, and then climb up the rocks on the other side. As I watched everyone jump off with ease, I looked behind me, a pair of suspicious inflatable boobs staring at me. Those things will keep her afloat. I’m terrified of heights, and of walking around without a helmet on at all times, but my fear of models is much greater than both those fears combined, and it was Ali who gave me the courage to fling myself off the cliff.
When I landed in the water, it was such a rush of adrenaline. I didn’t die! I am ALIVE! I AM SO ALIVE! By the time we finally made it to the waterfall, I was so exhausted that I was wondering how I was going to make it back to the truck. But the second you finally were standing still, underneath the fall, which wasn’t flowing, it was so incredibly beautiful that it rejuvinated every part of your being. The water was a gorgeous terqouise, crystal clear and freezing. High above us was the top of the fall, and light drips were cascading down the green moss and into the water, it was so serene that everyone got silent. We all stood just looking, taking everything in. It felt like we had just entered a place of worship, a sanctuary where people come to practice their faith.
Now that we had dispersed from our single file line, Ali had moved on to refusing to speak to Kai, who had not said one word to me or I to him, and I swam in the freezing cold water with everyone else using my slippahs as fins. The cold water made your muscles feel brand new. As we made our way back I charged it, because if I stopped moving, I would fall over. I found this out when I stopped along with everyone to look at a wild horse and while standing still fell over into a bush. Sean’s arm appeared like it had all day, “Thank you broddah,” I told him as he pulled me out of the jungle terrain. On the way back we passed other people lounging around on the rocks, “Howzit?” they said as you passed by. Locals! I shot them the shaka sign before tripping over fallen bamboo.
When we got back to the truck we all had snacks, which consisted of wild fruit we had picked, and cliff bars we had bought on our way, and then we piled back in the truck bed and drove back to town. Once back in town, Ali went home and Kai was able to speak freely. We bought a pizza and headed over to one of the resorts to eat it at the pool and watch the sunset. In Hawaii you never take your bathing suit off. You live in it because you never know when an opportunity will come where you can strip off your clothes and jump in some body of water. After sunset we went into the hot tub, and after the hot tub, we went to visit the manta rays.
Manta rays come out at night and you can see them from the bar of the resort we were at. Standing on the deck you can look down and watch these beautiful creatures swim near the surface, upside down, eating plankton. Everytime I encounter a wild animal, I feel like I need to pee. It gives me such a thrill to interact with animals like tiger sharks or sea turtles in everyday life. You can’t be anything but excited when you’re out on a swim and a sea turtle swims by, or you see a wild goat while walking down a road, or a tiger shark in the harbor, or a horse grazing by a waterfall. It’s impossible to feel anything else but so stoked on life and everything that’s out there for us to marvel at. I fell into bed on Friday at ten pm, exhausted, happy and excited to wake up early the next day and do it all again, minus the bunny.